I am a member of Generation X. This isn't something I had much control over, but I can control how I work, invest and manage my money. Every "generation" has a particular financial reputation, but I think it is fair to suggest that us Xers have never been highly regarded. We have always been seen as a little selfish, materialistic and inwardly focused. It must have been those long bus rides while listening to a portable cassette player. Now, the numbers suggest that perhaps my generation will do worse that the prior generation, at least from a financial standpoint. Does that really matter?
This is life
Some of this generational analysis provides a certain amount of interesting discussion, but am I supposed to conduct my financial life based on some kind of understanding of how generations have behaved in the past? The only life I truly understand is my own, and I bared understand that. Certainly there is value in studying historical financial trends, but I must say that I sometimes question whether experts can really derive a financial "profile" of each generation. Behavior can be studied, but understand "why" is a bit more complex. I live my life the way that I live my life. It is as simple as that.
Ups and downs
Another aspect of this analysis is that it can change over time. Right now it may be that Generation X is slated to do worse than the prior generation, but what happens if the economy turns around and roars ahead for the next 10 years? Suddenly my generation could be seen as financial geniuses that were just waiting for our time to shine. Besides, what is this fascination with doing better? Doesn't economic history tell us that the financial life of a nation is a series of peaks and valleys?
Advice for my fellow Xers
Some of this generational analysis is obviously a bit nebulous, but I do have advice for my fellow Xers:
1. Pay attention to the fact that society has a love affair with labeling and analyzing generations. Don't let a label determine your destiny, but recognize that over time certain groups of people can get stereotyped in terms of how they work, spend and invest. There is always an "edge" to Generation X.
2. Don't worry about doing better than your parents. What good does that do? Work hard, have a good attitude, make conservative investments, save for college tuition and live your life.
I am a proud member of Generation X, but don't label me. Financially I will survive, even if I make less than the prior generation. It gives the Millennials something to improve on.
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